The new version of iTunes has loads of new features that keep it ahead of the pack of flavorless musical apps. Hooray. These new goodies include WMA conversion, party playlists, a new lossless codec, printing improvements and more. It is awesome to see Apple run in this space and put out feature improvements on short cycles. Happy birthday you plucky little 1 year old!
But amid the new features are several that reinforce the mainstream focus of the music industry in ways that seem out of wack with the creativitiy and energy of Apple's user base. I think a good case can be made that the sheer weight of mainstream marketing schlock is what is hurting the labels - and iTunes ought to grow the industry with a page from Amazon's playbook: universal selection and user contributed content.
There are now over 700,000 songs on iTunes Music Store (iTMS) - but too many of the big indy labels are missing. Case in point: when I tried to upload my iMix - a sort of "
Bummer. Here is a great chance to build out 30 second song samples and track listings by getting submissions from users. I'd gladly upload both when submitting my iMix. Here's a great chance to build bottoms up awareness of what users listen to - this would beat the pants off arbitron and the bestsellers list of old. But it runs smack into the mainstream ways of the iTMS. "What are you listening to?" Great question. Crappy experience. Don't ask the question if you don't want to know.
Click over to the new radio playlists and it gets worse. You'll find only mainstream radio and only mainstream tracks - none of the coolness of "real time playlists" like KEXP let alone the supreme coolness of "real time distributed bottoms up playlists" created by individual iTunes listeners. It is wack that while Apple does so much to empower content creators, they worship mamon in the music space.
I still love you Steve Jobs, and thanks for building iTunes, my square, lovable, mainstream musical friend. Happy Birthday!